Though we’re only two episodes into the new series, HBO’s House of the Dragon has so far successfully captured the thrill of week-to-week dark fantasy epics, political drama, and overall excitement for the characters and world of Game of Thrones. A second season was already greenlit less than a week after the series premiere but with the recent bombshell of the Kit Harington/Jon Snow-led sequel series in development, it’s worth revisiting the impact of the original show as well as its potential future.
- Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things (season 1, episode 4)
- The Pointy End (season 1, episode 8)
- Kissed by Fire (season 3, episode 5)
- The Watchers on the Wall (season 4, episode 9)
- Hardhome (season 5, episode 8)
- Battle of the Bastards (season 6, episode 9)
- Beyond the Wall (season 7, episode 6)
- The Dragon and the Wolf (season 7, episode 7)
Despite a final season that went off the rails, Jon Snow cemented his status as a pop culture fantasy icon and one of the most compelling characters in Thrones‘ main cast. As such, he’s had a great spotlight in a handful of the series’ best episodes.
At this point, Jon Snow was already well established to be one of Game of Thrones‘ most likable characters, even with his own faults. It’s understandable, at least, given his young age that he has an air of naivety and cockiness about joining the Night’s Watch. These motives come from a place of hurt, as he’s still looked at as a bastard among nobles from Catelyn Stark’s perspective.
However, Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things show the early signs of Jon’s most admirable qualities. At the Night’s Watch, a terrified and woefully out-of-place Samwell Tarly struggles to get used to life surrounded by hostiles, but Jon goes out of his way not only to protect but also to try and train Sam so he can eventually fend for himself. Likewise, it’s also the beginning of one of the show’s most heartwarming relationships.
While The Pointy End is named after Jon’s advice to Arya as she now looks to escape the viper’s nest that is King’s Landing, the episode was also a milestone story for the former. After Jon and Sam return to Castle Black and identify the two bodies they discovered as members of the missing Benjen Stark’s group of rangers, the looming White Walker threat is brought to their doorstep for the first time.
It’s a triumphant moment in Jon’s life, as he and his dire wolf Ghost heroically kill an invading Wight Walker and save Lord Commander Jeor Mormont in the process. This is all the more rewarding for him, as Jon has already made enemies at Castle Black seeking to stifle his promotion within the Watch, but becoming Commander Mormont’s steward proved to be a momentous contribution to his growth.
Jon Snow’s life has been unfortunately been marred with tragedy, including romance. But before Daenerys Targaryen’s descent into maddening authoritarianism, Jon did manage to capture moments of respite with Ygritte beyond the wall. At this point in Kissed by Fire, Jon had managed to win the cautionary acceptance of the Free Folk.
Ygritte gets her fill of teasing the uptight and noble-to-a-fault Snow before an intense scene of romantic embrace. Amid the political turmoil, backstabbing, and a looming supernatural threat of invading ice zombies, this intimate scene and episode were both well-earned and sincere for both characters — which makes the eventual tragedy hurt that much more.
Though his unrelenting willpower to serve the greater good is admirable, it’s also one of the catalysts for Jon’s most crushing losses. Ygritte was Jon’s first love to meet a cruel fate. The Watcher’s on the Wall was the grand climax of the bitterness between the Night’s Watch and the Free Folk, concluded with a chaotic set piece battle at Castle Black.
Emotions were running high as Ygritte was betrayed by someone she loved, even though Jon’s love was just as genuine. Seeing Jon at her mercy, yet reluctant to let the arrow loose was painful to watch and even more so when Ollie abruptly murdered her. It was another vintage brand of Game of Thrones heartbreak — and a new meta scapegoat for the fandom in the form of Ollie.
Hardhome stands as one of the most iconic episodes of Game of Thrones, as it was equal parts action spectacle and a major turning point in the series’ overarching threat and storyline. Following the aftermath of the Night’s Watch’s battle with the Free Folk, Jon still manages to sow the seeds for a sturdy united front against the true conflict that would lead to the demise of Westeros. Jon and Tormund Giantsbane, alongside other Night’s Watchmen and Free Folk, journey to the town of Hardhome to convince the others to join them in an alliance.
However, an icy hellscape breaks loose when the Night King and his growing army decimate the town and its people in a riveting and gruesome battle. Hardhome expertly conveyed an overwhelming sense of dread of things to come, with the eerily quiet ending of the Night King demonstrating his power to Jon cementing that feeling of impending doom.
Another standout episode of the series, Battle of the Bastards was a landmark in Jon’s arduous quest. Just as importantly, it was a thoroughly satisfying close to the story arc that started when the vile Ramsay Bolton rose to power. Jon Snow had become the reluctant Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and was tasked with quelling Ramsay’s blood-soaked conquest of the north, as well as preventing his sister (cousin) Sansa Stark from falling back into the sadist’s grasp.
The death of Rickon Stark was expected, but it was brilliantly portrayed all the same by using that same atmosphere of dread that only a few villains can convey. More than that, though, was the Battle of the Bastards itself. Jon standing up to Ramsay’s cavalry against all odds was an unforgettably masterful depiction of the former’s heroic qualities, and his bloody beatdown of Bolton was one of the most cathartic scenes in Game of Thrones.
Though season 7 of Game of Thrones started to show that the showrunners were running out of steam in the absence of George R. R. Martin’s source material, it still managed to be an exciting spectacle in a “Hollywood fantasy blockbuster” sense. Beyond the Wall was one of the season’s most thrilling episodes, with Jon, Tormund, Jorah Mormont, The Hound, Beric Dondarion, and Thoros of Myr venturing north of the wall in hopes to capture a live White Walker.
It was a fun episode that had a “role-playing game” tone to it, with each party member filling an important role on a daring fantasy quest. As expected, it turned into a hectic affair once they were swarmed by the Night King’s army, and Daenerys swooping in with Drogon completed the show.
While it was evident to the most clued-in fans, The Dragon and the Wolf fulfilled a long-running theory of Jon being revealed as a Targaryen as well as a Stark through his biological parents. Season 7 as a whole also saw the long-awaited character dynamic between Jon and Daenerys, which was a balance of tension and budding romance.
It’s a shame that that wasn’t fleshed out as much as it should have, but even for those that knew Martin’s big secret all along, it was still a satisfyingly grandiose moment in the series. Even before then, though, was the palpable tension during the “hero” cast of characters’ meeting with Cersei and co. at the Dragon Pit. The conflicting dynamics and dialogue in that scene were another great example of how the show excelled in moments of character drama.
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